As the largest free tax preparation site in San Francisco, MEDA now does over 4,000 returns a year – with millions returned to the low-income community.
It doesn’t stop there.
As clients come to Plaza Adelante to get their taxes done, they are availed of the scope of MEDA’s free asset-building services. MEDA can help with housing rentals and purchases. There’s small-business development, including a community loan fund. Those needing a job can get a polished resume, training and connections to opportunities. There’s also financial capability, the thread that ties together this service-integration model.
There are also digital literacy classes offered, starting with a basic class where clients learn about internet security and setting up an email. This is certainly surprising, being that the Mission is action-central for all things tech. While it would be easy to conjecture that the Mission is 100 percent connected, too many of MEDA’s 6,800+ annual clients use a smartphone solely to make calls.
The data shows the need: a 2014 Mission Promise Neighborhood survey revealed that 46 percent of area residents did not have a computing device and high-speed internet in their home. This inequity needs to be addressed, as a connection at home is vital for doing everything from looking for a job to kids studying for tests.
The good news is that this week starts a new cohort of computer trainees at MEDA’s Digital Opportunity Center. There are two levels – Basic and Intermediate – with placement based on skill level, as determined by Technology Training Coordinator Leo Sosa.
Explains Sosa, “It is exciting to see the faces of our clients as they learn about computers, some for the very first time. It’s like they are coming out of the shadows, with MEDA a safe place for this to happen, surrounded by other community members in the same situation, plus a supportive staff.”
Taking the helm to teach both groups is Five Keys Charter School’s Ivan Hurtado, who has been a familiar face around MEDA’s Plaza Adelante the last few years. (Five Keys maintains a presence in MEDA’s Digital Opportunity Center, with the organization’s Marlon Altan offering GED and ESL classes).
Hurtado teaches these eight-week classes in Spanish, helping his students understand computer terms, which do not always translate well. As clients explore the power of computers, Hurtado helps them understand how the digital world is a way to better their families’ lives. Many clients are immigrants, so they need to understand that tech is for everyone.
For anyone looking to better their skills, there is an open lab on Mondays and Fridays for those without access to a home computer.
As class participants typed away on their keyboards on their first day, it was clear that their lives were in the process of being changed.
If you are interested in free computer training, please contact Leo at (415) 282-3334 ext. 146; firstname.lastname@example.org.